Scale of Britain's food waste revealed

A shortage of seasonal pickers is leading to higher prices in the supermarkets

Farmers in the UK are struggling as labour shortages, high energy prices and historic heatwaves hit the country. AFP
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Britain wasted food worth more than £60 million ($72.13m) in the first half of 2022 as farms struggled to recruit enough workers from outside the UK.

Crops have been left rotting in the field because of the chronic shortage of casual labour, the National Farmer's Union said.

The union said that four in 10 growers had suffered crop losses because of a lack of pickers.

Farmers also said they worry that recent drought conditions could lead to poor quality crops, leading to even higher food prices.

Britain is struggling with a cost-of-living crisis after inflation reached a four-decade high of nearly 10 per cent earlier this year.

Ongoing supply and labour issues led the Retail Prices Index ― which measures the price fluctuations of everyday goods ― to reach 11.8 per cent in July.

Currently, the seasonal workers scheme provides up to 40,000 six-month visas to bolster the horticulture sector.

Although a seasonal workers scheme provides the majority of the sector’s workers, it is due to expire in 2024 and critics say it is not ambitious enough.

Liz Truss, the Tory leadership candidate, has pledged to expand the scheme beyond its 2024 deadline, along with increasing the labour pool by an unspecified number.

NFU vice-president David Exwood said: “Farming’s a long-term game ― food just doesn’t appear, it’s years in the planning and so you need to be able to plan ahead.

“Politics is short term … and that’s where the problem lies.

“They’re worrying about votes tomorrow and we’re worrying about crops next year, the year after.”

According to the union’s survey, growers are bracing for a 4.4 per cent fall in production next year.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that labour shortages are affecting many countries.

“To support our farmers, we have already boosted the number of visas available through the seasonal workers route to 40,000.

“We have extended the scheme to include poultry and ornamental horticulture, we ran an automation review which will be published this summer and we are working to encourage people to take up jobs in the farming sector.”

Updated: August 16, 2022, 11:14 AM
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